Can you get a discount on your homeowners insurance if you have a security system installed? Just posting a security company’s sign on your window or in your yard may deter potential burglars, but educating yourself on security companies’ offerings can help you better determine if an alarm system is right for your home.

For many, the advantages of a home security system are primarily financial. Informing your homeowners insurance company that you have certain security measures in place can save you 5 percent to 20 percent on your homeowners policy. Insurers routinely give homes equipped with a burglar and fire alarm system monitored by a third-party company a 15 to 20 percent discount.

Security companies offer a host of options, including protection against burglary, fire and carbon monoxide, as well as medical and mobile monitoring.

There are two basic choices in security systems. Monitored systems contact your monitoring company by telephone when activated. The monitoring company then dispatches the police, fire department, or other emergency personnel to your home. However, the drawbacks could be quite serious, depending on the situation.

The monitored system uses your telephone line to notify emergency personnel. That means your phone line is in use, and you need a secondary phone line or a cellular phone to call for additional help. So if an intruder cuts your telephone line before entering your home, the advantages of a monitored system are lost. Also, in case of a false alarm, the police department may charge you for a making an unnecessary trip to your home.

Some monitoring companies sell their security systems, but do not act as the monitoring company. They may subcontract with another monitoring firm, who will handle this. You can find a secure monitoring company on your own, but if your company has an Underwriter’s Laboratory rating, you can trust that they are secure.

Unmonitored systems have advantages and disadvantages as well. An unmonitored system usually has an audible alarm and possibly flashing lights, which notify neighbors the security of your home has been breached. This, however, poses a problem: you must rely on your neighbors to take action if they see or hear your alarm system activated. Your neighbors may not be at home when you need assistance, or they may not want to get involved. Consider initiating a neighborhood watch program and having social functions in your community, so you can all become involved in protecting one another’s safety.

An alarm system may provide your home with needed security and you with peace of mind, whether you are at home or away. Developing close ties to your neighbors can also provide a sense of comfort. If you are considering a monitored security system, contact your homeowners insurance company for a possible homeowners policy discount.

While a security system may benefit you financially through insurance discounts, it can also provide the peace of mind you need to know your home is properly defended against burglary, fire or other threats.